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The international and African system for the protection of human rights: The case of North Africa

Wednesday 15th September 2021





Prepared and presented by:

Zoubida Essallami


North Africa continues to present significant challenges and opportunities for human rights. Almost all countries in the region are going through their democratic transitions, often punctuated by political conflicts or violence; The main challenge is to ensure that the human rights and aspirations of all its peoples are respected, without discrimination and in accordance with international standards. Human rights challenges exist in the areas of rule of law, economic, social and cultural rights as well as, in some cases, effective transitional justice initiatives. Gender protection and the rights of women and children and the rights of persons belonging to vulnerable groups remain, Such as minorities, persons with disabilities and immigrants, are key areas to be strengthened.


Other human rights issues of concern include freedom of expression and opinion, protection of human rights defenders, freedom of association, independence of the judiciary and law enforcement, the impact of counter-terrorism legislation, and economic and social rights.


In this context, the Independent Commission for Human Rights organized the symposium today under the title "The International and African System for the Protection of Human Rights in North Africa", through main topics on human rights, and the interventions will be sequenced as follows:

- The first intervention: Mr. Remy Ngoy Lumbu, Vice-President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and Special Rapporteur in charge of human rights defenders.

- Second intervention: Mr. Moulay Lahcen Naji, President of the Independent Commission for Human Rights.

- The third intervention: the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Mr. EL Jera Aboubekrine, a member of the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

- Fourth intervention: Internet and human rights, Mr. Hammadi Filali.




The table opened with a welcoming speech by Mr Remy, the honorable attendance, who presented an introductory speech on the topic of the symposium, "The International and African System for the Protection of Human Rights in North Africa", to give the floor after that to the interlocutors.


The first intervention: Mr.Remy Ngoy Lumbu, Vice-President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Mr Remy began his speech with a welcoming speech to the honorable audience. In his intervention, he mentioned that governments across African countries have recognized the important role played by human rights defenders and have made commitments to protect them. During the past decade, the international community agreed on an international framework that recognizes the role of every person in defending human rights, which was embodied in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which was adopted on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 9, 1998. He referred to the recognition by the Member States of the United Nations that the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can only be translated into reality if everyone participates in their implementation and those working to promote them can do so free from interference, obstacles, intimidation and threat.

In accordance with the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other international and regional human rights standards, governments are held accountable for any violations committed against human rights defenders by their own officials.








Although governments around the world have recognized the important role played by human rights defenders and made commitments to protect them and facilitate their work, governments have acknowledged that efforts by human rights defenders with regard to monitoring, vetting and making proposals to improve conditions are not only in line with the duties of the state in Adherence to local and international human rights laws and standards, Rather, it contributes significantly to achieving this goal. The practical application of these pledges and declarations often contradicts their content, and with the absence of protection mechanisms at the national or regional level for human rights defenders in North Africa in particular, the importance of the existence of international protection mechanisms as the last line of defense available to human rights defenders to limit the torrent of violations that they face.


- Second intervention: Mr. Moulay Lahcen Naji, President of the Independent Commission for Human Rights.

Mr Naji opened his speech with a welcome speech to all the attendees and highlighted in his intervention that the Independent Commission for Human Rights is an international non-profit and non-governmental organization. It can join all NGOs or national and international networks. The body is headquartered in Morocco and aims to "build societies where respect for human rights is at the heart of everyday life".

Turning to Article 30 of the African Charter on the establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (hereinafter referred to as the "Commission") tasked with "promoting human and peoples' rights and ensuring their protection in Africa".

and the promotion of human and peoples' rights, in particular through:

- Collecting documents, conducting studies and research on African violations in the field of human and peoples' rights, organizing seminars and conferences, disseminating information, encouraging relevant national and local bodies, respecting human and peoples' rights, and expressing opinions or making recommendations to governments.


- Drafting and detailing principles and rules, with the aim of serving as a basis for the adoption of legislative texts by African governments.

- Cooperating with other African or international institutions interested in promoting and protecting human and peoples' rights.

- Finally, the NGO Forum also provides valuable opportunities for individuals, civil society, NGOs and delegates to connect and collaborate with each other.


-The third intervention: the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Mr. El Jera Aboubekrine, a member of the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The professor's intervention began by asking the following question: What is the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child?

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) was established pursuant to Article 32 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Article 42 of the Charter provides for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in accordance with the said Charter.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child derives its mandate from Articles 32 to 46 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity on 11 July 1990 and entered into force on 29 November 1999.

The duties of the committee are as follows:

Promotion and protection of the rights set forth in this Charter, in particular:

- Collecting and documenting information, commissioning a multidisciplinary assessment of the situation relating to African problems in the areas of child rights and welfare, organizing meetings, encouraging national and local institutions concerned with child rights and welfare, and, where appropriate, expressing opinions and making recommendations to governments.


- Monitoring the implementation and ensuring the protection of the rights stipulated in this charter.

- Interpret the provisions of this Charter at the request of a State Party, an institution of the Organization of African Unity or any other person or institution recognized by the Organization of African Unity, or any State Party, or any other task that may be assigned to it by the Assembly of Heads of State Governments, the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity and any other organ of the Organization of African Unity or the United Nations.

As for the reporting procedure, Mr. Abu Bakr acknowledged that Each State Party to the present Charter undertakes to submit to the Commission, through the Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, reports on the measures it intends to implement. The provisions of this Charter and the progress made in the enjoyment of these rights:

- (a) Within two years of the Charter's entry into force for the State Party concerned; and (b) thereafter every three years.

Any report prepared under this Article:

- (a) contains sufficient information on the implementation of this Charter to enable the Committee to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the implementation of the Charter in the State concerned; and (b) an indication of the factors and difficulties, if any, affecting compliance with the obligations under the Charter.

- A State Party that has submitted its first full report to the Committee is not required to repeat, in its subsequent reports submitted in accordance with paragraph 1 (a) of this article, the background information previously submitted.

- On the other hand, communications/complaints are made through another procedure, which is:

- 1. The Commission may receive communications from any person, group or non-governmental organization recognized by the Organization of African Unity, by a Member State or by the United Nations on any matter covered by this Charter.

- 2. Any communication addressed to the Committee shall contain the name and address of the author, and shall be treated as confidential.


Then the professor moves on to the committee's investigations:

1. The Committee may use any appropriate method to investigate any matter related to the scope of this Charter, and request the States Parties for any information related to the implementation of the Charter, and may use any appropriate method to investigate the measures planned by the State. party to the implementation of the charter.

2. The Committee shall submit to each regular session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government every two years a report on its activities and on any communication made under Article [44] of this Charter.

3. The Committee publishes its report after consideration by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

4. States Parties shall make the reports of the Committee available to the public in their countries.

Then the professor moved to the composition of the African Commission, where the African Commission consists of 11 members of high moral integrity, who are elected by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union for a five-year renewable term. They serve in their personal capacity. The committee elects its bureau for a term of two years with the possibility of re-election. The Bureau of the Committee consists of a Chair, two Vice-Chairmen, a Rapporteur and a Deputy Rapporteur.

The members of the Center are persons of high morals, integrity, impartiality and competence in all matters relating to the rights and well-being of the child. Members of the Council in their personal capacity are independent and do not represent any government. They serve on a voluntary basis. ACERWC members come from diverse backgrounds including civil society, NGOs, higher education, and state institutions. However, they maintain their independence and impartiality; They cannot be officials of an intergovernmental organization or a United Nations agency or hold political positions such as a minister or a member of parliament.



- Fourth intervention: Internet and human rights, Mr Hammadi Filali.

Which focused on:

Recently in the headlines is the issue of government and private agencies tracking our daily lives on the Internet, our digital imagination, and our relationships with others through the means of communication and social networking. As we have been convinced today that the details of our daily lives have become vulnerable to hacking using advanced applications such as PRISM.

The use of these technologies against us and even how people use the Internet has posed enormous challenges to the development of legislation that protects human rights in the digital world at the national and international levels and at the level of international, African and national human rights mechanisms.

The dangerous thing is that some governments in Africa have come to consider mass surveillance by detecting mobile phone and online conversations, using a list of applications designed to collect as many huge data as security agencies consider sufficient to find a cybercriminal, or any other type of suspect. Or a human rights defender who has become a sound and normal behavior, which has made the digital repercussions of human rights violations gaining increasing attention by human rights defenders, although it was not enough due to the failure to achieve a great digital integration on the African continent, which requires governments and private companies to develop their laws to ensure the protection of human rights Human.

But it is not only governments that use the Internet against their citizens. The largest Internet companies in the world also collect and store mountains of our personal data on their systems and process it for the purposes of market research or product testing, and not forgetting that Facebook leaked the private data of hundreds of thousands of its users two years ago.

Therefore, the African human rights mechanisms and the various national mechanisms for the protection of rights must work to remedy the backwardness of the digital revolution, which has accelerated dramatically since the Covid-19 pandemic that we are living in today, and which puts us all facing current and urgent challenges in order to defend the victims of digital violations of human rights. In addition to the aforementioned forms of violation of the individual privacy of citizens, we remind women victims of extortion and sexual harassment via the Internet or mobile phones where digital technology can and should be used as a channel to provide information, awareness and support, but only when women and girls can access and use it safely.


That is, because digital technology is linked to violence against women and sexual harassment online, with more time at home and online (especially during this pandemic), women, especially young girls, are at increased risk of technology-facilitated violence and online gender-based violence. There are also children who are victims of wastage or school delays due to the adoption of distance education in North African countries, with the principle of equal opportunities not being guaranteed. We also do not forget the children who are victims of pedophilia, as there have become global criminal networks specialized in luring African girls and children, and that is, as I mentioned, due to the weak digital knowledge of its users Communication and the Internet..

So technical and legal experts with African and national mechanisms in various North African countries must bear in mind the ethical and legislative responsibility to recognize that we also have online rights and freedoms to ensure that governments are mandated by law to protect our rights online and offline.


Here comes the collective responsibility of all actors in the human rights field to plead, whether through digital campaigns or building electronic blogs and petitions, in order for digital knowledge to have an important space in educational curricula to keep pace with the digital transformation that the world is witnessing. African contractual mechanisms must also include in their instruments explicit and detailed texts on the protection of human rights from digital violations, and should pay attention to building the capacity of civil actors in this field, because it is noted that there is a weakness at the level of digital advocacy, digital campaigns and training, In addition, NGOs have become obligated to attract competencies in the digital field to achieve the necessary efficiency and effectiveness.

This will fit in with the continuing efforts of judges, policymakers, and NGOs looking to regulate the relationship between technology and how people use the Internet and the means of communication, which seek to shape international interest in online rights. The alignment of African and national mechanisms with UN resolutions and the International Coalition on Internet Rights and Principles is integral to adequately addressing the issue of human rights online and influencing future policies in our region.


Finally, we are all called upon to advocate smart in order to facilitate the benefit of the opportunities offered by digital technology for economic knowledge-enablement for vulnerable groups. With the rapid digitization of work, school and social life, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of technology and innovation for achieving gender equality, inclusive development and protecting rights is becoming more apparent and more urgent.


Then, Mr Remy would allow the men and women to discuss the topic of this symposium. The recommendations of the intervening men and women were based on the following points:


  1. Formulating and consolidating principles and rules aimed at protecting the rights and welfare of children in Africa.

  2. Cooperating with other African, international and regional institutions and organizations concerned with the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of the child

  3. Training various civil actors in the field of human rights.

  4. Advocacy, whether through digital campaigns or building electronic blogs and petitions, in order for digital knowledge to have an important space in educational curricula to keep pace with the digital transformation that the world is witnessing.

  5. Intelligent advocacy in order to facilitate the benefit of the opportunities offered by digital technology for economic cognitive empowerment for vulnerable groups.

  6. Achieving gender equality, comprehensive development and protection of rights.

  7. Defending victims of digital violations of human rights.

  8. Using digital technology as a channel to provide information, awareness and support.

  9. Encouraging civil society organizations in North Africa to obtain observer status in the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

  10. Civil society pleads before the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and interacts with its mechanisms and with its rapporteurs.

  11. Bringing issues related to human rights violations to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

  12. Organizing training courses for civil society organizations in North Africa on African mechanisms, defending human rights, freedom of expression, assembly and association.

  13. Pleading to urge the Kingdom of Morocco to ratify the Charter of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

  14. Encouraging civil society organizations to interact with the mechanism of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).

  15. Urging civil society in North Africa to submit parallel reports (shadow reports) to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

  16. Encouraging civil society organizations to participate in the African Human Rights Forum organized in the Gambian capital, Banjul.

  17. Networking between North African civil society organizations and African civil organizations in order to defend human rights.

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